Syrian opposition council accepts leader's resignation

Burhan Ghalioun has struggled to unify the 270-member Syrian National Council.

Story highlights

  • Burhan Ghalioun will step down as head of Syrian National Council
  • He is urging reforms
  • Opposition group has struggled with unity
  • Ghalioun will stay in position until new leader is elected next month

The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) said Wednesday it had accepted the resignation of Burhan Ghalioun, its Paris-based president.

Ghalioun suggested restructuring the council but was asked to stay in his position until a new leader is elected in early June, the SNC said in a statement.

The Syrian opposition has been divided from the outset.

Western diplomats have long bemoaned the lack of purpose and unity in the unwieldy SNC, which is headquartered in Turkey. Inside Syria, it has no traction with influential clans and families.

Ghalioun has struggled to unify the 270-member council. In March, about 20 prominent members of the SNC decided to form the Syrian Patriotic Group with the aim of building closer ties to the rebels inside Syria.

Last week, Ghalioun said he accepted renomination "in order to be a unifying figure." But criticism of the group led him to step down.

"I will not in any way become a divisive figure," he said in a statement. "I call upon all parties to meet as soon as possible to formulate a unifying national framework to bring us out of the cycle of division and argument and into cooperation and solidarity."

Within Syria, Local Coordination Committees and the Free Syrian Army comprise the regime's real opponents, but there are tribes and minorities, such as the Kurds, who also are influential.